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July 30, 2014

Moonshot

Separating the Phenoms Who'll Make It From Those Who Won't

by Robert Arthur


Predicting rookie players’ performances is one of the most difficult tasks for any projection system. By definition, they lack the extensive body of work necessary to analyze their performance. While it’s tempting to foresee a Hall of Fame career in the demeanor of one at-bat, statistics (as well as common sense) caution against it. No matter how locked in or lost a player looks in the sample of a few games, his true skill cannot be inferred from such meager experience.

The ultimate cautionary tale here is Mike Trout, whose first year (2011) MLB stats go like this: .220/.281/.390, in 135 plate appearances. Such a line is not the stuff from which legends are made, and had a lesser prospect posted it, there might have been rumblings of doubt in the media. Trout was decidedly not a lesser prospect, and his raw combination of discipline and athleticism had every scout and fan salivating despite the poor batting average. Even so, it’s still possible to find a few sentences in the press reports of that time which noted his difficulties:

Offensively, he has looked overmatched at times, with a .125 average (three for 24), seven strikeouts and two walks.

Granted, these utterances were often embedded in the context of articles praising Trout’s maturity, focus, or resemblance to Mickey Mantle, but my point remains: the best player in the world can flounder for his first hundred at-bats.

In the early days of a player’s career, there is a silent struggle going on between him and the rest of the league. Each side is feeling the other out, looking for weaknesses and avoiding strengths. Just ask Mike Trout, from September 2011:

It’s been tough but they are pitching to my weaknesses and I have to make adjustments…

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<< Previous Article
The Lineup Card: Nine ... (07/30)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Moonshot: Accounting f... (07/22)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Moonshot: Troy Tulowit... (08/06)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article TTO Scoresheet Podcast... (07/31)

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